This week at the Capitol, several omnibus budget bills were brought before the full Senate for debate and a final vote. On Thursday of this week the Omnibus E-12 Education bill was considered. This bill in its current form will spend $15.7 billion over the next two years on education. This amounts to 41 percent of the state general fund budget.
The bill also includes an optional expansion of all-day kindergarten and eliminates any parental fee for use of the program. This proposal also makes numerous policy changes to teacher licensure requirements and testing for students. Also included is an increase in the current school shift which has been discussed widely over the past few years and no funding is included to pay back the remaining portion of the existing shift.
This week at the Capitol, the Senate has been continuing work on the state budget. Numerous committee specific budget bills have been heard in the Finance Committee and passed off the Senate Floor. That work continues and likely will into next week.
Once a budget bill is passed by both the Senate and the House, there will be a conference committee convened to work out the differences between the two proposals. The governor will also begin to engage the legislative committees during these conferences in order to work toward final agreement on all the separate areas of the budget.
Other zoning ordinance changes
Chickens will now be allowed in residential districts in Stearns County. The Board of Commissioners Tuesday, April 23, voted to change the County’s Land Use and Zoning Ordinance to allow for chickens in R-1 and R-5 districts.
Nora Rohrbeck has been appointed pool manager in Watkins. Jacob Forcier and Natalie Stein are to be assistant managers. They will have their hands full in the days and weeks to come: sign-ups for summer swimming lessons are coming up, but first the pool must be emptied and prepared for the season. Once the snow and ice is out of the pool, Rohrbeck and new City Works Director Steve Geislinger will assess what repairs need to be made to the pool before it can be filled for the season. Sign-up for lessons will be May 4 at the Watkins Village Hall.
After a few years’ absence, the city decided to hold a clean-up day this year. It will be from 8-11 a.m., but a date has not yet been set (needs to be coordinated with West Central Sanitation).
Doug Host and Sarah Utsch of CliftonLarsonAllen, the city’s accounting firm, presented the 2012 city audit with “no findings to report.” The only deficiency necessary to report to the state is one common for all small cities and school boards: lack of segregation of duties when it comes to financial transactions; there are too few employees to provide the usual checks and balances available in larger towns.
The city closed on a $3.537 million loan in March; this was the selling of the bond for last year’s water/sewer/street work, sold to Harvest Bank in Kimball. A punch list has been prepared for the contractor to finish street and alley projects this spring.